Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cacti and Wrens

I took a ride over to Oak Canyon Nature Center in Anaheim Hills this afternoon, mostly for a lack of anything better to do. I had most of my work for the day done, and I couldn't think of anywhere else to go for an hour or two in the late afternoon. I miraculously found the place after driving around the hilly neighborhoods of Anaheim Hills (very accurately named, I discovered), lost. This obscure little nature area is tucked back in a little canyon, surrounded by housing developments.

Surprisingly, I'd never been to the place before. I wandered around the trails, not really knowing where to look, turning up a lot of birds. Towhees, Scrub-Jays, California Thrashers, Wrentits, Yellow-rumps. I hiked up the Roadrunner Ridge Trail to take a look at the adjacent Walnut Canyon Reservoir. On my way up, I came across a huge patch of prickly pear cactus. A nice big hillside of cacti often will have some Cactus Wrens in it, so I did my best imitation of the wren's throaty chortle. A Cactus Wren instantaneously popped up a few feet away, chattering back at me.

The bird glared at me for a little bit before wandering off and joining a second Cactus Wren on a jumbo prickly pear. This was possibly the best look at a Cactus Wren ever. It is one fun bird to see - they are so pretty and have so much character!

I followed the ridge trail all the way to the top to quickly check the reservoir. The only birds on the water were a few American Wigeons, singles of Redhead, Ruddy Duck, Double-crested Cormorant, Eared Grebe, and a few Mallards. I headed back down along the hillside down into the oak-riparian area along the small creek that winds through the park. Until then, I had been in mostly open sage scrub/cactus areas, with tons of wildflowers as well.

I found some other interesting species among the stream side oaks, including my first Black-throated Gray Warbler, Nashville Warbler, and Warbling Vireo of the spring. Unfortunately, the dim light underneath the thick canopy prevented me from getting more photos.

All in all, I am very glad I ventured out to Oak Canyon Nature Center for the first time ever. I was pleasantly surprised by the numbers and variety of birds I saw in the short time I was there. The Cactus Wrens were a treat. I've never been able to get good shots of these guys in California, since the cactus patches they inhabit are generally a long distance from trails. I'm sure I'll be back at Oak Canyon soon.

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